ABOVE PHOTO: Teenshop members proudly holding check (pictured from left): Lauren Craig, Senior Manager of Public Affairs Manager, Coca-Cola North America; Teenshop founder Elleanor Jean Hendley; Fran McGorry, President and General Manager Tri-State Operating Unit.
By Leah Fletcher
There are young girls who dream of futures that include college, careers and successful lives. In those dreams, they are research scientists, heart surgeons, college professors, corporate attorneys or computer engineering business owners. What they know in the here-and-now is that they have dreams and they have goals. And to achieve them they need support to reach their destinations. For the past three decades Teenshop, Inc. has helped to empower such ‘girls with goals’ to become caring, courageous leaders and professionals, as well as change agents in their communities.
The Teenshop program is the brain child of Elleanor Jean Hendley, Founder and CFO, and, since its inception, more than 31 years ago, the organization has evolved into a nationally recognized organization that “prepares girls with goals for college and careers.”
“Teenshop, is for girls with goals,” explained Hendley. “It does not matter where you come from. It doesn’t matter where you live or what your circumstance might be, but if you have a desire to be successful in life and to use all of your gifts and talents, then, the dedicated women in Teenshop will help you get there.”
Teenshop is open to girls between the ages of 13 and 18, who are not parents, and has a current enrollment of more than 125 girls. It is a model program that works. There are five chapters coordinating programs in Philadelphia, South Jersey and Los Angeles.
The chapters meet on Saturdays, from September to June, mirroring the public school calendar, offering workshops that provide everything a young girl will need to grow into a productive citizen. They deal with health and fitness, money management, etiquette and character development, as well as college tours and a summer, college prep residential program on the campus of Bryn Mawr College. Hendley acknowledged that “early exposure to college does make a difference”.
The girls also are involved in service projects like the annual Shoes for Life initiative that occurs in April. They collect and donate thousands of pairs of gently worn shoes to families in need and to girls preparing to attend their proms.
Hendley was an Emmy Award-winning television journalist working at Philadelphia’s CBS 3. The accomplished reporter and producer/host of the popular news magazine “City Lights” wanted to be of service to her community. “I didn’t have a plan,” the former school teacher recalled, but she enjoyed working with girls from an after-school program she had created and decided to expand her efforts. On June 15, 1985, Teenshop, Inc. was born. Thirty years later, in June 2015, there was a 30th Anniversary Debutante Cotillion celebrating the program’s milestone. The class and savior faire exuded by the event left many asking for an annual repeat. Hendley recalled her youth as a debutante and thought it was an apt event to celebrate the organization’s achievements of three decades.
“I’ve always understood the importance of giving back to your community and one of the advantages you have of being in the media and in the public eye is that you have a voice and you get to decide how you want to use that voice for the greater good. So, that was really kind of the genesis for Teenshop, she said.”
The program depends on the generosity of funders who share in the organization’s vision. Last week, The Coca-Cola Foundation supported Teenshop with a $50,000 grant, the single largest grant received by the non-profit. The grant will be used to enhance its college preparatory programs and initiatives, including college campus tours, pre-college summer program, and book scholarships for Teenshops’ graduating seniors. The programs funded by the grant will extend the program’s services to the entire community.
“I am so proud that our foundation is making critical investments in the next generation of Philadelphians,” said Fran McGorry, President and General Manager of Coca-Cola Refreshment’s Tri-Sate Operating Unit. While Coca-Cola has been operating in Philadelphia since 1902, McGorry has lead the business in Philadelphia for the past 10 years.
According to Hendley, the grant represents the single largest contribution in the history of the organization and represents an investment that will continue to move Teenshop forward in a significant way.
“With this generous gift from The Coca-Cola Foundation, we will be able to strengthen our collegiate initiative to ensure event greater success for our girls in the future, “Hendley said. “When I founded the program, it was my intent to show our girls that having goals could help them avoid the pitfalls that derail the life plans for so many youth today,”
The confidence of donors like Coca-Cola speaks volumes about Teenshop’s effectiveness. However, assessing its effectiveness is tied undoubtedly to the success of its participants and their willingness to return to their former chapters, mentors, and volunteers.
The proof of the program success is tied to its graduates. Nearly 7,000 girls have participated in Teenshop since its start and the majority of them– nearly 99 percent– have gone on to college or professional schools, according to Hendley, who noted that all of the girls graduate from high school.
“We prepare girls for college and careers through life skills workshops,” said Hendley, who admits the pride she feels seeing the young women who have achieved collegiate success and return to give back by volunteering.
“Right now, in each of our chapters, we have girls who have gone to college, have come back to this community and are working in leadership positions in their former chapters. And, for those who are not actually in the chapter working, they are volunteering.”
Family and Consumer Sciences Educational practitioners, like Lisa Phillips, applaud Hendley for the success of Teenshop. “Such programs are crucial, especially when considering today’s social and education landscape,” Phillips said, who pointed out its crucial impact on young girls.
“When young people enter mainstream society, they are expected to demonstrate what they learned on their K-12 educational journey. When they are not able to perform academically, socially and physically, they often enter society with underdeveloped life skills” said Phillips, who stands on 33 years of experience.
Phillips estimated that young women, who participate in mentoring programs like Teenshop, generally emerge from those experiences with life skills that allow them to participate in society. “They [young women] are studying a curriculum that acquaints and/or reinforces life skills necessary to take advantage of various employment, collegiate and post-secondary educational opportunities.”
“It’s almost a testament to how effective you have been when young people want to come back,” said Hendley. “When you have done a good job, students want to maintain some kind of relationship. They will call you up and say, ‘I really appreciate what you did for me.’” Noting that they are on the pathway to achieving their dreams and want to ‘give back to their communities’, makes you feel good.”
Hendley admits that Teenshop’s success does not rest merely on her dedication only. “There are a lot of “passionate” women working as volunteers at the chapter level of Teenshop to “help other mothers raise their daughters”.
According to Hendley volunteers are some of Teenshop’s greatest supporters. “They tell other mothers about the program and encourage them to enroll their daughters.”
The chief executive recounts the stories of mothers who were drawn to the program as volunteers due to their participating daughters. “Their roles evolved because of that involvement and their desires to expand opportunities for their daughters, “said Hendley.
“After their daughters graduated from the program and moved on to college, many remain involved,” according to Hendley, who noted that some of these adult volunteers have assumed leadership roles in the Teenshop organization.
For more information on Teenshop and how to get involved, visit www.teenshop.org/. The application deadline for the 2016-2017 program year is September 30, 2016.
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